Student 'admitted killing dementia-suffering woman, 94, in house fire during game of Truth or Dare with pals'

A STUDENT allegedly confessed he had killed a 94-year-old woman suffering from dementia in a house fire during a game of Truth or Dare.

A jury heard Tiernan Darnton, 20, admitted his "darkest secret" to pals weeks after Mary Gregory was laid to rest.

She died after a blaze at her bungalow in Levens Drive, Heysham in May 2018 – which was initially thought to have been the result of a tragic accident.

Mary was found in the conservatory area of the property and was carried out from the flames by firefighters in the early hours.

She was treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation before being rushed to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, where she sadly died three days later.

It was believed the circumstances surrounding the death of Mary, who was a heavy smoker and had dementia, were accidental until Darnton's alleged admissions, Preston Crown Court heard.

At a counselling session on May 9, 2019, he discussed a friend who "could send me to prison [because] of what he knows".

David McLachlan QC, prosecuting, said the counsellor ended the session before commenting: "I'm not really clear what you're saying, but I think you're trying to tell me you've killed someone."

Darnton then allegedly nodded his head in agreement, before returning to another session the following week accompanied by his stepfather, Chris Gregory.

Chris, the son of the late Mary, questioned: "Is this all about my mum?"

The court heard the 20-year-old then "volunteered" his admission, saying: "I set fire to the curtains with a lighter."

Mr McLachlan continued: "Chris Gregory responded ‘What, at 03:00 in the morning?’ and Tiernan Darnton replied ‘Yes’."

In the wake of his shocking revelation, cops began an investigation and spoke to Darnton's friends, who told them of the Truth or Dare game they had played.

He was asked to confess his "darkest secret", jurors were told, to which he allegedly said: "I have a secret I haven’t told anyone. I may have killed someone."

The student then admitted he had killed his "grandmother", explained how he did it and that he did not want her to suffer anymore as she had dementia, the prosecutor told the court.

He was arrested in May 2019, before officers discovered a series of disturbing Google searches upon inspecting his devices.

In June the previous year, he had searched "murderer filled with despair", "I'm a murderer" and "I'm a monster and I'm going to hell".

Examinations found Darnton had made another search in August 2018 which read: "feeling guilty for putting a loved one out of their misery".

Mr McLachlan told the court a fire examination expert would tell them the blaze was started by naked flame ignition near to the front bedroom window and not by dropping or carelessly disposing of a cigarette.

He said Darnton "deliberately" set the fatal fire in the home – but the 20-year-old insisted he did not intentionally or accidentally do it.

He instead claimed his comments during Truth or Dare "had to be understood in the context of my mental health issues and in particular my attention seeking behaviour at that time."

In a prepared statement to police, he said he wanted to shock his "edgy" pals in a bid to get them to like him more.

Darnton denies murder and an alternative count of manslaughter.

The trial continues.

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